Even Roseanne Barr was shocked when the Neilsen ratings rolled in after the debut reboot of her self-titled ABC sitcom. The Tuesday night hour-long premiere blew ratings through the roof by all accounts, surpassing numbers for smash hit series like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. “Roseanne”’s numbers even eclipsed the much anticipated 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels. The comedian tweeted her gratitude to fans and also acknowledged her writers on the show – whom she identified as “all Liberals”.
Barr’s lightning rod Twitter account actively courts controversy, beginning with her run for President in 2012, when she actually appeared on the ballot for the Peace and Freedom Party and placed sixth overall in the general election. Since that time the comedian tweeted out a number of objectively offensive tweets, many of which she deleted in recent history. But in the last few months Barr’s tweets began to adopt a more promotional tone in anticipation of the new television show.
Frenzied reactions erupted from social media and pop culture sites alike with the announcement of “Roseanne” the reboot . Political polar opposites spewed furious rants over the return of the self-styled ‘Domestic Goddess’. More than a few pundits called for boycotts of the program. The right bemoaned socially progressive themes discussed in the show, including gender fluidity, feminism, and body autonomy. The left howled because the main character, Roseanne Conner, admits in the first episode that she supports President Trump – a decision that mirrors the real-life political leanings of Roseanne Barr. A twitter handle by the name of #BoycottRoseanne called for the show’s cancellation based on Barr’s “racism, homophobia, antisemitism and hate speech”. Meanwhile, the right wing group known as One Million Moms also called for a boycott based on the inclusion of a character that promotes the “transgender agenda” that they claim amounts to “child exploitation at its worst”. One convulsive radio host declared a new episode in the “culture war”. Finally, a show that brings both sides of the political spectrum together in collective contempt!
Now prepare yourself for our special Okie twist to the Roseanne news: Tulsa ranked as the #1 market nationally for the Roseanne premiere according to Neilsen Media and the Hollywood Reporter. That’s right, we landed on top of a national ranking again! Here’s the thing … rather than crawling into the nearest shame-cave, perhaps we can just straight up admit that many Oklahomans identify with the dire themes “Roseanne” tosses into its levity blender. Can it be that humor in sitcom form serves as a chaser of sorts, in order to make the hard liquor, ahem, I meant issues, somewhat more palatable?
Let us consider the state’s most dismal national rankings in the areas of healthcare (#49), suicide (#13), opioid abuse (#1), divorce (#1), and the fact that the recent national economic upturn has not been reflected in the home state’s economy, not even close, with a national poverty ranking of #10.
Who among us will approach the Easter dinner table without a relative packing some sort of heat on his or her person? Doesn’t everyone anticipate a non-p.c., or vulgar joke told by a snickering cousin, just outside Grandma’s earshot? How about the fact that most families count at least one Trump voter among their ranks? Most Oklahomans experience that bowel-gripping fear in their gut, regardless of political affiliation, the moment a political bomb drops in the family setting. Perhaps that is why the return of “Roseanne” was received so well in Oklahoma – maybe it felt like coming home, even if it is a loving, dysfunctional, accursed home.
When questioned about her politics on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Roseanne said, “a lot of your audience and including me, I just want to say this, Jimmy, a lot of us, you know, no matter who we voted for, we don’t want to see our president fail. Because we don’t want Pence.”
According to the social media echo chambers, Roseanne’s new show doesn’t deserve a place on air. But its undeniable popularity in Oklahoma demonstrates that our fractured families and divided society remain in dire need of repair. We can only hope that laughter might begin to facilitate that discussion. In that way, no place proved more hilarious than our own little T-Town last Tuesday night.